The New York State Legislature passed the Clean Slate Act on Friday, June 9th, in one of the final votes before the conclusion of its annual session in Albany.
The state established a procedure to automatically seal most criminal convictions to aid individuals in re-entering society following their sentence completion and maintaining a clean record.
As previously reported by LittleAfrica News, the Clean Slate Act will hide most misdemeanor and felony convictions from public scrutiny after the individual completes a multiyear waiting period post-incarceration.
The bill, which emerged after years of negotiation and agreement between the Democrat-led Senate and Assembly, extends the waiting period for felonies to eight years, ensuring the most serious crimes remain unsealed. The Clean Slate Act is the latest in a series of justice reforms, including reforming cash-bail laws and adjusting the criminal culpability age.
Catalina Cruz, a sponsor of the bill, said, “This legislation is not about criminal justice only. It isn’t just about public safety. It isn’t just about economic justice. It isn’t just about equity and fairness.” She concluded, “It’s about redemption.”
Although Governor Kathy Hochul has yet to voice support for this version of the Clean Slate Act, she is expected to sign the bill into law, having championed the idea of automatic conviction sealing in the past.
The Clean Slate Act will allow criminal records to be sealed following release from prison and after a waiting period. The waiting period is three years for misdemeanors and impaired driving charges, while felonies require an eight-year waiting period. If the individual faces a new charge during this period, the sealing process is paused, and the clock resets if they are convicted. Convictions can be sealed even if the individual does not serve jail time, with the waiting period beginning when the sentence is announced.
The legislation defines sealing a conviction as making it inaccessible to the general public but with several exceptions. State departments and agencies, including the Department of Motor Vehicles, firearm licensing agencies, public schools, and care facilities for children, disabled individuals, and older people, will still have access to these records. Police agencies will also retain access to the records during hiring decisions, and exceptions are also in place for instances where the person is required to testify in a criminal or civil case.
Certain crimes, including sex and most Class A felonies, are excluded from the automatic sealing provision. Also, the law doesn’t apply to federal convictions.
The Clean Slate Act, backed by a wide range of Democrats, labor groups, and business organizations in New York, aims to help individuals rebuild their lives post-incarceration by improving their chances of securing employment and housing.
Despite opposition from Republicans, police organizations, and prosecutors, supporters argue the Clean Slate Act will contribute to workforce expansion and economic opportunity for millions of New Yorkers.
Those with prior convictions can expect them to be sealed under the new law, but implementation may take several years due to administrative requirements. It remains to be seen if additional funding will be provided to facilitate this.